Wednesday, January 14, 2009


If you are in New York, be sure to head to the new location of Feature Inc. on Bowery just south of Houston (west side of the street, by the tree) for the show of new work by painter Alex Brown, opening Thursday, January 15, 6-8 p.m. Digital photos don't do the paintings justice, partly because of the post-Monet scale of the works. Think Gerhardt Richter meets Chuck Close, but with a deconstruction beyond pixellation that finds a weird transcendence in the mundane everyday of the negative space of your city. Here's an interview with the artist that Feature just posted over the weekend (the tour of Japan referenced in the first question is the recent tour of NYC hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits, in which the artist plays guitar):

.how was ur tour of japan? is the creativity of being in a band n e thing like the creativity in making paintings?

Amazing. Tiring. Confusing. Uncomfortable. Beautiful. Crowded. Foreign but familiar. Traveling with a band is a unique way to go. Being in that tour bubble and having people show you around and hold your hand is great but it takes some of the memorable challenges away from the experience. You never have time to really do much else than sound check, try and find something decent to eat, play, and try to get a few hours sleep. The creativity with this band takes place when we're doing anything other than playing. The challenge is to see who can make the rest laugh the hardest. Painting and music are pretty different beasts. The immediate satisfaction of playing live is exhilarating but it all seems so fleeting and over with too quickly. Not too dissimilar from an art opening. Solo vs. group. Quiet vs. loud. Full vs. hungry. Rested vs. exhausted. Crisp vs. ragged. Empty vs. crowded. Home vs. away.

.r the single person people pics portraits or chosen because they are interesting mmmmages? who are all these peeps; need we kno? this little game reminds me of the notion of think global, act local.

More than interesting images I tried to think of how they would work together as a group and how one might compliment another. Black, white, yellow, brown, geometric, organic, male, female. Those choices are much more part of my decision making process than anything else. The particulars in this case weren't the primary concern. They're paintings more than they are portraits. There's that automatic distance generated by presenting these anonymous heads without giving the viewer much more insight than the hint of a smile or a backlit ponytail in profile. Respecting local/global, yeah, I wouldn't disagree with the idea that I am both personalizing and making universal the images. That's also a nice parallel to the micro/macro world I always find myself drawn back to. Things that upon first, up close viewing seem completely abstract, full of seemingly random designs, but after stepping back from come into focus and make sense as one cohesive picture.

.what is it about pics of people? whats the fascination, esp if we don't know who they are?

Maybe it has something to do with finding imagery that I can execute and represent with the most economy. Does that make sense? It's the same reason I use landscape; when these very familiar things are broken down to their root they still maintain a certain, albeit varying, recognition and ubiquitous understanding. It remains a challenge to try and recreate something somewhat specific with varying degrees of information. Ultimately the images are simply a reason and vehicle to keep painting.

.do you think of paintings, or art, as a way to increase perception but slow down meaning? Isn't that question just as relevant if we said that art is a way to slow down perception but increase meaning?

Maybe that might be more germane to the less recognizable paintings of mine. That meaning thing is a tough one. Once we attach specifics we lose the act of looking. That's always the best experience in viewing art for me and probably the reason I shy away from producing work that might lead to a quick summary of me, my beliefs, my experience, etc. That's a bit of a bore don't you think?

.though still quietly so, do you think your recent paintings have become increasingly charged with emotions and that you accomplish this through the modulation of colors?

After the decision of what to paint and how to filter it onto the canvas, it's a rather simple matter of sitting down and doing it. They're fairly time consuming but definitely not exhausting to make. Digging ditches is exhausting. I wouldn't make them that way if I didn't like the outcome and there's something undeniable with work that bears evidence of attention to detail. Regarding emotion, I feel too close to the work to really comment on that other than to say if I am doing my job as a painter I certainly would hope that there is something other than mere labor indicated in the work. There's that myth about someone crying and overcome with emotion while looking at a Rothko. Have you ever had the reaction to a piece of art? The only time I was ever affected like that was upon seeing Michelangelo's Pieta in St. Peter's. And that was ephemeral. Music, film and literature are much more effective at drawing out a more fervent emotion.

.what are some of your pleasures with mashing and meshing images? as a viewer one could look at it as multi tasking yet also it really is a simple obvious day to day function of the thinking process.

It's fun to look at these worlds within worlds. It offers a nice balance to the ones that are done with rigid, geometric grids and vice versa. Somebody attached the word palimpsest to the paintings you're asking about. Something altered but still bearing traces of it's original form. Here's the gallery's interview with the artist about the show:

.who or what are some of the things that inspired your interest to have your work delve into the interdependent relationship of representation and abstraction? Lack of skill as a painter in a more traditional sense of the word? Unwillingness to give you a clear picture of what's really going on in my brain?

That relationship is a direct result of the manner in which I have chosen to paint. I have always been confused by abstraction. Confused because of a lack of orientation. Taking something realized and turning it into something unrecognizable makes sense to me. I try not to think in those terms so much. They're all just paintings and some look more like something that you've seen in your experience than others do. It all trickles down in varying degrees from a clear source image to finished painting. My abstractions are really just less than overly clear realizations.

.given all your years of making paintings, do you feel progress is linear, circular, spiraling? do you feel like you now know more? does motivation change?

All of the above. I feel like the more you know the less you and I definitely know very little. You're making me feel old by the way. I don't think the motivation ever changes. It all goes back to trying to one-up your brother by drawing a better super hero than his. Making things that people appreciate or are drawn to always feels pretty great.

The brother the artist references in his life-long effort at one-upsmanship would be me. Alas, I cannot make it to New York for the opening, but I hope some of you will stop by and check out Alex's outstanding new work.


Located on Bowery, west side of street, just below Houston St., by the tree.

Subways: 6 to Bleecker St., walk east on on Houston St.
B D F V to Broadway Lafayette, walk east on Houston St.
F V to Second Ave, walk west on Houston St.
N R to Prince St., walk north to Houston, east on Houston

Open Wednesday through Saturday 11AM - 6PM, Sunday 1 - 6 PM

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